Nicky Morgan: 'I want teachers to focus on inspiring children not battling bureaucracy'

Writing for TES one year on from the start of the Workload Challenge, the education secretary explores the lessons learned

Nicky Morgan

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With half-term on the horizon after a busy start to the new school year, I know that many of you will be looking forward to a well-earned break. 

There is no doubt that while teaching remains one of the most rewarding and life-changing of professions, it is also incredibly demanding.

Which is why I want to ensure that your efforts are focused on what you do best: not on battling unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork but on inspiring young people to flourish and fulfil their potential.

This is absolutely key to this government’s One Nation commitment to social justice; to spreading opportunity and excellence everywhere and to every child, regardless of birth or background.

I know that this is a mission that you share and are as keen as I am to see become a reality. Hence my decision to launch the Workload Challenge this time last year, a call to arms that generated a fantastic 44,000 returns – the biggest consultation response that my department has received in a decade.

Teachers came forward in their droves to share experiences and ideas that have helped us to develop measures to tackle the root causes of unnecessary workload. These included important moves, announced in February, to limit and give schools more time to prepare for significant changes.

But we were clear that this was only the start.

Biggest concerns: marking, planning and data

We have also taken decisive action to address some of the biggest concerns raised – marking, planning and resources and data management – via three new review groups made up of a broad mix of teachers, headteachers, representatives from the unions and Ofsted, and other experts.

I am particularly pleased to see that they include teachers who responded to the Workload Challenge – Rose Murphy, Helena Marsh, and Lesley Allwood – and that the work of these groups is now well underway. 

Just three weeks on from announcing the chairs and membership, the groups are about to kick off their second round of meetings. We are also publishing their terms of reference – terms that I am pleased that the groups have had a chance to shape as well as the programme of work that they will be taking forward over the next few months.

Having met the chairs – Dawn Copping, from Shaw Primary Academy in Thurrock, Kathryn Greenhalgh, from Outwood Grange Academies Trust, and Lauren Costello, from the White Horse Federation in Swindon – a month ago, I know that everyone involved is determined to make a difference for teachers and for their pupils. And I am hugely grateful for the way in which these dedicated professionals are giving up their time so generously to take part and contribute.

No one is surely better placed than those on the ground to know what really works, and we would encourage other frontline teachers to tell us about good practice in their schools, so that we can help celebrate and spread this.

Have your say

We always knew that getting to the bottom of what is driving unnecessary workload would be a challenge and would not happen overnight.

This issue goes to the heart of often long-established working practices and systems. Changing these is not always easy, but is vital to making sure that teaching is the great profession we all know it can be and to ensuring that it attracts and retains amazing, talented people like you.

And it is vital, ultimately, for the better life chances and brighter futures we all want to see for the next generation.

That is why eliminating unnecessary workload remains one of my biggest priorities. All of us; government, teachers and school leaders, have a role to play in this endeavour and I am confident that, by continuing to work together, we can and will crack this. 

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Nicky Morgan

Nicky Morgan is secretary of stare for education

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